ISLAMABAD: Journalists in Pakistan have to face extra ordinary threats while covering conflict ridden areas and are more vulnerable to danger and due to the nature of their work, they need special protection. This was said by Baleegh Ur Rehman, Minister of State for Education while speaking at the closing ceremony of International Conference on combating impunity and securing safety of journalists and media workers in Pakistan. Baleegh ur Rehman expressed commitment for the cause of journalist safety and said that the ministry of interior is working closely with ministry of information and broadcasting to devise protection mechanisms for journalists in Pakistan. “Media cell is being created within the interior ministry and would be made operational very soon” he added. He said that with cooperation from the police, the government has designed an android application that allows the journalists to click a virtual panic button in event of an imminent threat, to send alerts to the Rapid Response Force (RRF) and nearest police station.
Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan while giving his remarks on need of legal framework for journalist safety said that there is a need for a specific law concerning journalists’ security and safety. He said that the issue of impunity is more political in nature and journalists need to organize politically and come out on the streets to build pressure for consequential investigations and convictions. While commenting on the draft safety law, presented by the group of national and international media development experts, he suggested to have a specialized mechanism to investigate and take action on the threats on journalists with regards to the idea that journalists face threats which are unique in nature.
The conference was a part of Pakistan Coalition on Media Safety, PCOM’s efforts towards the implementation of UN Action Plan against Impunity in Pakistan. The conference was focused on generating stakeholder feedback on a set of policy recommendations that have been drafted by PCOMS after multi stakeholder consultations across the country. The recommendations, outlining responsibilities for journalists, media houses and the state were welcomed by the national and international participants. The participants stressed upon the need to make Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) an independent body and ensure that the members are elected, not chosen by the government officials. The recommendations also endorsed the idea of linking security audits with renewing channels’ licenses under PEMRA.